Discover the Secret Messages in Latvian Mittens
Latvian knitter Ieva Ozolina is on a mission to get everyone knitting mittens, with her book of Latvian mitten patterns, Knit Like a Latvian. Mittens play a hugely important role in Latvia’s culture and history. Mittens were given as wedding gifts and the act of making mittens for special occasions still continues today. Traditionally, every bride-to-be was expected to fill a “hope chest”, and the most lavish chests contained several hundred pairs of handmade mittens. Mittens were also given to the family of the couple and anyone involved in organizing the wedding.
Nowadays, Latvian mittens, with their distinctive shape and diverse range of colors and patterns, are still a winter essential. Most of the patterns are derived from Latvian mythology and incorporate various folk symbols. Each knitted design has a different meaning and therefore every mitten has its own special story.
Symbolism in Latvian Mitten Patterns
The Sign of God
In ancient Latvian mythology, God was not just the father of the Gods, he was the essence of them all. This symbol represents the sky, as a roof over the Earth.
THE SIGN OF MĀRA
The deity of earth and water and all the creatures within. Māra is the protector of women, especially mothers, and children. She is goddess of the Earth.
THE SIGN OF LAIMA
Goddess of destiny. Laima determined the destiny of people. The name Laima derives from the word laime, which means “happiness” or “luck”. The sign is thought to bring luck.
THE SIGN OF THE STAR
The star protects from evil. The simplest form of star is a basic cross shape, created by lines crossing at right angles, which symbolises fire and the light. A cross in Latvian folklore has six or eight stars and is one of the only surviving symbols to still honour the wintertime ceremonies and celebrations.
THE SIGN OF AUSEKLIS (MORNING STAR)
The usher of the new day. Auseklis is thought to protect people from the forces of evil, which roam at night.
THE SIGN OF THE SUN
The Sun is the dominant feature of God’s heaven. The Sun is the goddess of fertility; patron goddess of the unlucky. The sign of the Sun is the most frequently used element in Latvian design.
THE CROSS OF MĀRA (CROSS OF CROSSES)
Related to fire, house and productivity (fertility). It guards, blesses and brings happiness.
Zalktis was the guardian of wealth and wellbeing and therefore had to be protected and cared for. Zalktis was thought to be a sacred animal, thus had access to worldwide knowledge. It symbolizes wisdom, ancient arts and sacred crafts.
Ieva’s book presents a collection of 50 stylish Latvian mitten patterns, each presented with a full color chart to create beautiful mittens, as well as coordinating fingerless gloves and wrist warmers, so that you too can knit like a Latvian!
Click on the book cover below to get a sneak peek into your next knitting addiction:
(Originally posted on May 9, 2018; updated on May 23, 2019.)